The term ‘brand ambassador’ has long been used in relation to celebrity endorsements, which certainly haven’t gone away. However, the term can also legitimately refer to anyone who is paid by a company to represent their brand in a positive way, in order to boost both brand awareness and sales.
Your firm may call upon one high-profile brand ambassador, or employ a network of them to endorse your brand across a range of promotional contexts, such as trade shows and exhibitions. But what are the best reasons for your business to hire brand ambassadors, and what are the minus points of their use of which you should be aware?
Advantage: They humanise your brand
People like to interact and do business with other people, rather than a faceless organisation. A brand that has personality is a powerful one, and brand ambassadors can directly embody that personality.
Whether your brand ambassador works at trade shows or other promotional events like those employed by staffing agencies like Kru Live, or instead through social media, they can also provide crucial information and assistance to those who may wish to purchase from you, helping to turn your company’s brand promise to consumers into a reality.
Advantage: They boost your online reputation
If your brand is being spoken about negatively online, whether via formal online reviews or less formal forum discussions, are emphatic answers being provided to combat the negative image of your company that is being fostered as a result?
Online brand ambassadors can serve to protect and enhance your brand’s reputation on the web, whether they do so by directly ‘fire-fighting’ consumer concerns – such as by offering expertise and assistance – or in more general terms, such as by sharing their own positive experience of your product or service.
Advantage: They provide great word-of-mouth
Good old-fashioned word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there – indeed, it may remain the most potent of all.
As reported by PRNewser, a study by Ogilvy, Google and TNS found that word-of-mouth was the top “point of influence” for those purchasing products in the auto, beauty and smartphone categories, cited by 74% of respondents. This placed it above such other factors as retailers and store visits (69%), YouTube (64%) and Twitter (61%).
Brand ambassadors can be excellent sources of positive word-of-mouth about your company, exerting their influence to gradually turn those who may have otherwise only been casually interested observers into potential customers.
Advantage: They can drive traffic to your website
Choose a brand-relevant ambassador with a strong pre-existing online profile – for example, due to owning a popular blog with a high domain authority – and all that they need to do is provide a link to your site to give your brand an easy SEO boost.
Even when your brand ambassadors are predominantly active at public events rather than online, they can provide an indirect benefit to your brand’s profile on the web, generating the awareness and interest that helps to drive additional traffic to your site beyond what your marketing team may already be doing.
Advantage: They boost brand awareness in new regions
When you are trying to make an impact with your brand in an unchartered part of the world, why use anything less than the most powerful means of promotion? Sometimes, it’s difficult to get those vital marketing messages to penetrate in a region that may be sceptical about your offer unless they come from a more trusted source, which is where brand ambassadors come in.
Whether your brand is targeting the United States, Asia Pacific or any of the many other established or emerging markets that could be lucrative for your business, brand ambassadors can be invaluable ‘foot soldiers’ at promotional events and in parts of the web where it would be difficult for you to commit your regular staff.
Disadvantage: They aren’t completely in your control
While you can certainly be diligent in your search for brand ambassadors that are truly professional, reliable and embody all of your company’s best values, you can never completely control what your ambassador does. You will therefore need to be willing to place your trust in the best-qualified ambassadors.
This lack of control can be a particular issue when your brand ambassador is someone with a strong public profile outside their association with your business. Tiger Woods is one prime example, the golfer’s sponsorship deals with AT&T and Accenture thought to have been brought to an end due to his disclosure of marital infidelity in late 2009, according to About Sports.
Disadvantage: They could become too strongly tied to your brand
Related to the above point, an especially well-known brand ambassador can become irrevocably associated with your business, leaving your and their fortunes closely intertwined.
Subway, for example, were caught out in 2015 by its long-time spokesperson Jared Fogle being investigated for and ultimately sentenced to 15 years in federal prison in relation to possessing child pornography and travelling to pay for sex with minors.
While Subway’s founder and president Fred DeLuca had told Inc. in 2013 that Fogle had been a key contributor to the brand’s success, the subsequent scandal nonetheless provides a salutary lesson to businesses of the importance of diversifying their base of brand ambassadors.
Disadvantage: They could overshadow your brand
The opposite problem to that of brand ambassadors miring your business in scandal by association is that of the ambassador’s popularity competing with and even superseding your brand.
This could be said to have been the case with Paris Hilton’s association with Fila sportswear, notwithstanding the question of whether the American socialite and TV personality represented the best match for a supposedly athletic brand.
Brand ambassadors should never be seen as the ‘start and end’ of your brand’s online or offline marketing efforts, with the above issues highlighting the importance of carefully selecting and managing your own ambassadors to ensure that they live up to your firm’s values.
Nonetheless, brand ambassadors can be an extremely powerful resource when appropriately used as part of a complete and well-judged wider marketing strategy.